The Murrieta Firefighters Association is advising residents to use caution when responding to phone call solicitations from nonprofit organizations—one in particular.
The nonprofit organization Association for Firefighters and Paramedics, Inc. has recently been calling Murrieta residents to solicit donations for burn victims; however, the charity is in no way affiliated with local first responders, according to Murrieta Firefighters Association President Dean Hale.
“We do not know or sponsor this organization...,” Hale said. “They are deceptive and have a history of taking money out of our community and not delivering it back to the organization that responds to their homes.”
Hale said he began looking into Association for Firefighters and Paramedics when they called his home number to solicit a donation.
“My concern is that our residents here in Murrieta are being taken for their money—money they assume is going to firefighters and paramedics locally,” Hale said. “They (the organization) are falsely representing themselves.”
The Association for Firefighters and Paramedics has come under scrutiny before. In 2010, the organization was ordered to pay a $100,000 settlement as a result of lawsuit filed against it by then-California Attorney General Jerry Brown.
According to an Attorney General’s news release issued at the time, an investigation into the organization revealed it “misrepresented how and where donations would be spent, and mailed out invoices for pledges that had never been never made. Board members also diverted $33,000 from the charity for out-of-town board meetings in San Diego and Las Vegas, and a Caribbean cruise for board members and their families before a meeting in Florida.”
The state investigation revealed: “...Though funds were solicited nationwide...none of the funds were used to support local fire departments or paramedics. Further, donors who asked were told that 80 to 100 percent of their donation would go to the charity when, in fact, the charity received less than 15 percent. Eighty to ninety percent of the donations received were used to pay for the charity’s fundraising expenses.”
The court ordered that through 2013, the charity’s fundraising materials and program expenses be closely monitored. The organization was also ordered not to misrepresent itself.
In 2011, Association for Firefighters and Paramedics reported a revenue of $1.46 million.
When reached by phone Monday, the organization’s president, Michael Gamboa, explained that money raised goes to support hospitals and other organizations that care for burn victims.
Posted on its website are several letters from such organizations. These include Encinitas-based Angel Faces, which puts on a yearly retreat in Corona for girls ages 13 to 19 who have been burned or injured in a traumatic accident. Angel Faces confirmed it has received donations from Association for Firefighters and Paramedics: $750 in 2010 and $1,000 in 2012.
Other organizations that have received contributions include University of California Irvine Burn Center and Shriners Hospitals.
“These hospitals and organizations can do a better job of weeding out where the need truly is,” Gamboa told Patch.
Gamboa said since he did receive a call from the Murrieta Firefighters Association, he plans take Murrieta off the organization’s call list, as he doesn’t want to take away from local fundraising efforts.
“That would affect their bottom line,” Gamboa said.
According to Hale, the Murrieta Firefighters Association “never” solicits for donations over the phone.
“That is a practice most local fire departments gave up in the 1980s,” Hale said. “We have many other fundraisers we do. We do a golf tournament and we actually have a charity fundraiser dinner coming up.”
Hale maintained that while he knows the organization in question is a registered charity, he believes it is guilty of false representation.
“When people get a phone solicitation, they need to follow up with who they are giving money to,” Hale said. “There are a lot of frauds that happen. If they want to give money to an organization, know who they are.”